A number of colleges and universities, as well as some law schools, have implemented Safe Space programs to provide resources and support for individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), as well as persons who might have questions about their sexuality or concerns about a friend or loved one who is LGBT.
Purpose of the Safe Space program at Chicago-Kent
The purpose of a Safe Space program at Chicago-Kent is to provide a "Safe Space" where people who have questions about gender and sexuality, whether in their own lives, in the lives of family and friends, or in the wider culture can go to discuss those issues. Faculty and staff who choose to participate in the Safe Space program participate in a two-hour workshop where they are provided with resources to assist those who approach them with LGBT related concerns. Those who attend the workshop are identified by a "Safe Space" sticker hung on the door to their office or inside their office. In addition, those who participate are listed here. Participants in the Safe Space program are considered "allies" and do not necessarily self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but they are prepared to listen and respond to those with questions about related issues.
Why is a Safe Space program needed at Chicago-Kent?
Members of the Chicago-Kent Lambdas, the LGBT student group, have indicated that they believe that Chicago-Kent is already a very supportive environment for LGBT students. We have a number of "out" faculty at Chicago-Kent, a course on sexual orientation and the law, same-sex partnership benefits for faculty and staff, and a very active LGBT student group. In addition, our law school faculty was among 30 law schools and law school faculties that supported FAIR v. Rumsfeld, a suit that challenged the Solomon Amendment. The Solomon Amendment allows military recruiters to come on campus, despite their refusal to sign our school's non-discrimination policy. The military will not sign the non-discrimination policy because they actively discriminate against our students based on their sexual orientation. Our school has also been an active participant in ameliorative efforts of Solomon, posting signs in the third floor lobby on the days that the military comes to campus in order to protest the military's discrimination against our students.
Even with all of the great support that already exists for LGBT students at Chicago-Kent, the committee felt that faculty and staff would be more approachable if they participated in a Safe Space workshop and became familiar with resources for LGBT students, as well as the concerns of LGBT students. LGBT issues intersect with almost every department of the law school. For example, LGBT students who consider attending our school may have questions for the Office of Admissions about the climate at the school for LGBT students; LGBT students who are in same-sex partnerships may have questions for the Office of Financial Aid; LGBT students notice when their professors address the way that laws impact them differently than heterosexuals in everything from family law to estate planning; LGBT students face concerns about whether to be "out" on a resume or at a job interview and may direct those questions to the career services office, as well as to faculty.
In addition to academic concerns, there are personal issues that impact LGBT students and family members of LGBT persons in particular. For example, if a student has not "come out" they may face a series of questions and self-doubt as they explore this life changing process. A LGBT student may feel unwanted by their families, friends, and/or religious institutions on account of their sexual orientation. A heterosexual student may have a parent or sibling who comes out to them as an adult or they may grow up as the child of a gay or lesbian couple and not know who they can talk to among the faculty or staff when one of their parents is ill. These are just some of the many ways that LGBT concerns intersect with the life of the law school and that is why a Safe Space program is needed.
History of the Safe Space program at Chicago-Kent
In the fall of 2005, the Office of Multicultural Student Services at the Illinois Institute of Technology held a meeting to consider the creation of a Safe Space program on the main campus. Several representatives from Chicago-Kent attended that meeting and decided that a Safe Space program at Chicago-Kent would assist our school in responding to the needs of our LGBT students and make the campus a more open and accepting environment. In the spring of 2006, a group of faculty, staff and students convened to develop this initiative.